My Top 8 draft from Grand Prix Atlanta had some tricky decisions, and today I’ll break down my choice from each pack.

Serpentine Spike

This is my first pick overall and there were no cards competing against it. At the start of the format I thought this card was only okay but the more I’ve played, the more I’ve grown to appreciate this card for what it is: a total bomb.

Herald of Kozilek

This was my second pick and it was a somewhat close call between it and Pilgrim’s Eye, but the Herald is a much better card. This pick is close but also clear, the Herald plays well with my first pick and I have a strong preference for UR—taking the Pilgrim’s Eye is really only correct if you suspect there is a large chance you’ll end up in RB or RW and not UR.

Forerunner of Slaughter

This pack was particularly difficult and I took this card because it’s powerful and I was willing to speculate on the possibility that BR devoid aggro was being heavily underdrafted. Not where I wanted to be, but if the table was going to force feed it to me I wasn’t going to resist.

Akoum Hellkite

Getting this card 4th is shocking. That means three people to my right all saw it and decided not to take at, most likely two of them made an error passing it and there’s a good chance all three did. I had already picked three red cards, so this was perfect.

Valakut Predator

This was the closest pick of the draft yet: Valakut Predator, Vestige of Emrakul, or Zada, Hedron Grinder. I took the full amount of time to decide and despite the fact that I love Vestige of Emrakul, and I already had Herald of Kozilek and Forerunner of Slaughter that benefit from colorless cards. I still took the Valakut Predator because I feel the power level is just too high. Predator has continued to impress me as my base-red decks usually aren’t too clogged at 3 mana—I was playing 18 lands which conveniently fuels landfall, and it’s just a great card. 3-mana 4/4? I’m in.

Culling Drone

This pack had no good red or blue card to take and it contained Culling Drone, Silent Skimmer, and Demon’s Grasp so it appeared as if black could be open and the Culling Drone was in line with a deck that wanted to have Forerunner of Slaughter and Valakut Predator. Another pick that was close but clear, I didn’t think long about it at the time and looking back I’m confident it was correct.

Incubator Drone

There was an Adverse Conditions and Boiling Earth in this pack but I slammed the Incubator Drone. The value of an Eldrazi Spawn token is increased when you have high-end bombs like Akoum Hellkite and Serpentine Spike. I also felt I would have more of a lean to control if I played blue (and more of a lean to aggro if I played black) so I was happy to take Incubator Drone over Adverse Conditions. In the best versions of my focused, aggressive, low­-curve UR aggro decks, Adverse Conditions is much better though.

A Few More Picks…

Clutch of Currents

This was another super close decision in the draft and I considered taking Benthic Infiltrator. There was a Dominator Drone if I wanted to be BR aggro or a Fathom Feeder if I was willing to be Grixis, but neither of those options interested me. The Pro community at large agrees that Clutch of Currents is a better blue common than Benthic Infiltrator and I largely agree, but I think I would pick Benthic Infiltrator over Clutch of Currents about 25%­-33% of the time. Some decks would rather have a Horned Turtle than a 5-mana bounce spell and some decks have a much larger incentive for devoid or ingest. It wasn’t clear to me where my deck was at this point in the draft or where I wanted it to be by the end of the draft, so I deferred to just taking the more powerful card.

Anticipate

The only card in the pack other than Anticipate I could have reasonably taken was Wave-­Wing Elemental, but I don’t like that card very much. Additionally I’m a big fan of Anticipate, the opportunity cost at 2 mana is very low and it makes it so if you have bombs in your deck you see them more often while it mitigates mana screw and mana flood. There have been formats where Anticipate was weak, and in those formats I have avoided playing it, but all the downsides associated with the card are lessened and the upsides are all magnified in Battle for Zendikar. Unless I have a bunch of Mist Intruders and a sweet curve, I’m always happy to play 2 Anticipate in any blue deck.

Dampening Pulse

This card is awesome. I would have picked it over most cards at this point in the draft but luckily it was in a pack with few other good cards so I could take it, solidify myself in blue, and have a great card to show for it.

Benthic Infiltrator

I was extremely happy to get Benthic Infiltrator this late in the draft. The announcers seemed to view this pack as a missed opportunity since there was a Smothering Abomination and I had dabbled in black for a bit, but I feel Benthic Infiltrator is a better card and it’s in a color I would rather be. Smothering Abomination is fine but nothing special.

Kozilek’s Sentinel

I love Titan’s Presence but I didn’t have anywhere near the number of colorless creatures I needed to justify that pick.

Outnumber

Crummy in my deck but the best card in the pack and a card I will always play when I’m red.

A Few More Picks…

Ding ding ding!

Clutch of Currents

Outnumber and Cloud Manta were in this pack but the power level discrepancy between those cards and Clutch of Currents is too high to make up for taking a card that better fits my mana curve. Plus I didn’t mind being a little on the top-heavy end if it meant my deck was filled with stone-cold killers.

Ruin Processor

I love Ruin Processor and I almost always play one in any type of deck I draft. This was one of the worst decks for it but I was still happy to take and play it.

Herald of Kozilek

Clear signal that my color combination was being underdrafted and I was getting a hefty reward.

Nettle Drone

There was a Turn Against in this pack but I hate that card. I think Turn Against is outright worse than Stonefury. When the set first came out it was a commonly held belief that Turn Against was this amazing card that would lead to frequent 2-for-1s but that just isn’t the case and I’ve been disappointed by Turn Against time and time again, to the point where I just stopped putting it in my deck and haven’t looked back.

Vile Aggregate

Not the best Vile Aggregate deck I’ve had, but this is far later than I would expect a card of this quality to go and it’s still an awesome card—even in this deck.

Stonefury

I’m a big fan of this card as well and I’m willing to pick a card like this much higher than 7th.

Makindi Sliderunner

Akoum Stonewaker was in the pack—a fine card which works well with my Outnumber, but the Sliderunner asks so much less to just be a solid card on its own. With Sliderunner and a Valakut Predator already, I thought I could get some cheap wins with good aggressive creatures without trying all that hard. Additionally I had two copies of Clutch of Currents which help with that.

Anticipate, Spell Shrivel

Boiling Earth was a close call here but 2 Herald of Kozilek and the chance that I would maindeck the Spell Shrivel made Shrivel the pick for me. I ended up playing it maindeck and it was great for me every time I drew it.

Final Few Picks

I was extremely happy with how the draft went. I’ve watched it a few times now and  looking back I feel confident in saying I made every pick correctly (based on my own evaluations of the cards). Even looking at the Top 8 deck lists, in my eyes, I clearly had the best deck at the table. I finished in 2nd and I lost to a very good player who had some very good draws, so there’s no shame in that.